Young-Walker Receives $6.6 Million Grant for Center for Excellence in Child Well-Being

children at daycare
Funding will support early childhood social and emotional development.

A University of Missouri School of Medicine researcher will receive $6.6 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to start a statewide training program designed to coach child care professionals on how to support the social and emotional development of children.

Laine Young-Walker, MD
Laine Young-Walker, MD

Laine Young-Walker, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry, is the grant’s principal investigator and oversees the Center for Excellence in Child Well-Being, which will begin the training program in September. The three-hour interactive learning program will target more than 5,000 daycare and preschool child care professionals in Missouri over the next 12 months.

“Our goal is to equip these child care professionals with the practical skills needed to support the social and emotional behaviors that will keep children happy, decrease misbehavior and reduce the possibility of an incident that might cause a child to be removed from a program,” Young-Walker said.

The training will give daycare and preschool employees tips on how to teach children to interact with others, develop interpersonal communication skills, respond to emotions and regulate emotions when triggered.

“When children misbehave, they are at risk of being removed from a care facility,” said Julie Allen, director of operations for the Center for Excellence in Child Well-Being. “If a child is kicked out, then the parents face challenges in trying to continue to work. It has a huge impact not only on the child and family stability, but on the economy.”

Funding for the program runs until July 2023 and comes from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education through the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This project is a culmination of years of work,” Allen said. “We’ve had previous grants to screen for developmental delays. This project is a natural progression to ensure children receive appropriate behavioral modeling from their caregivers to ensure their healthy development.”